Why hello there! I am sure you have clicked on this article because you care about our world and want to do what you can to do your part, which is exactly the attitude we need all over the world to make a massive change! So thank you for doing what you can to make this world a better place.
Now, the issue of clothes…. We have grown up in a society where buying clothes is something we should do on a weekly basis.
- Are you bored? Buy some clothes!
- Got a rip in your shirt, don’t fix it, just buy another one!
- Is that on sale?! I don’t need it, in fact, I even have the same one at home but in a different colour, but I’ll buy it anyway!
It is interesting how we think, and don’t think twice about it, but I want to tell you why we should think twice..might save you some money too!
Clothing and the Environment
These are the sorts of reasons we tell ourselves to buy clothes and it seems harmless enough? They are cheap, it is fun, and it is a way to express YOU. I agree on all of these justifications, HOWEVER, what we fail to realize or be educated on is that the manufacturing process to make clothes is a very environmentally damaging process. We forget that everything we buy comes from somewhere, is made from something and usually affects the environment is some way or another and most of the time, it is not done in a sustainable way.
Most of the clothes we buy are made out of polyester or cotton. Polyester is a man-made material and is actually made out of petroleum, a waste chemical made from burning coal. How crazy is that?
The manufacturing process of polyester is also very energy intensive and requires large amounts of crude oil and releases emissions into the atmosphere. Additionally, volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants. The EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators (Claudio 2007).
To make matters worse, once we buy them, we have got to wash them..over and over again, and every time we do that, tiny micro-fibres of plastic get washed out and are released into the ocean, affecting sea life in never before seen ways.
Cotton, another very popular clothing textile is very harmful to our environment as it can use it can take 2,700 litres to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt and accounts for a quarter of all pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA.
Cotton production is high but they keep it at very low prices – this is how the crop industry benefits from subsidies that keep the prices low and production high, this is what drives the globalization of fashion.
How did this all start?
During the 1920’s, especially during World War 1, people were encouraged to repair, mend, and tailor their clothes to fit other family members and recycle their clothing by using them as rags or quilts. They even urged designers to make clothing that used LESS fabric and to avoid unnecessary decoration.
Unfortunately, this did not last long because by the mid-1920’s consumerism kick-started our world due to the introduction of the industrialization period which increased the production of all sorts of goods.
Our economy has become so dependent on continued marketing and the manufacture of new products which then quickly leads to disposing of them all because of the drive to keep up with the latest fashion. In fact, the rate of the disposal of clothing has dramatically increased, so much so that the average t-shirts lifespan, from the sale to end up in the landfill, has decreased substantially (Claudio 2007).
Population Increase means Waste Increase
So here we are now in 2018, and BOY not only has the population increase contributed to the production of more goods but so has our culture when related to continuous shopping. An increasing population means an increase in waste.
What is scary is that in the UK and the US, the average consumer produces, 30-40 kg of textile waste a year. In the US, 85% of textiles are thrown away without being reused or recycled accounting for 5.7% of the solid waste in landfills (Weber 2015).
By the looks of things, our waste issue is getting out of hand and the population is only going to keep increasing as the years go by, so how can we help?
How Can YOU help?
It is time to go back in time! Back in the 1920’s and practice their habits.
- Only buy a piece of clothing if you NEED it or if you absolutely LOVE it. Ask yourself, ‘Am I buying this only because it is on sale?’ or ‘Am I just bored?’
- If a piece of clothing you have gets a tear in it, get it fixed or if it is really bad, cut it up and use it as a washing cloth!
- Additionally, if you need some new clothes, ask your family members if they have clothes they don’t want anymore and see if anything looks great on you!
- If you do want to get rid of some clothes ask your family if they want any or ask some friends, otherwise donate them at a shelter such as the Salvation Army or St Vincent’s, to help others out. What you should not do, is put them in the bin, because they just end up in landfill.
- Buy sustainable clothing from Eco-friendly brands!
What is interesting to note is that a lot of the clothes we have at home we don’t use. In fact, in a UK study, participants estimated that 60 per cent of their wardrobe is ‘inactive’ – their clothes are just stored, and not worn. And yet we continue to buy new clothes, because they are inexpensive and clothing trends are constantly going in and out of fashion, so there is that pressure too, especially for young women. Magazines are FILLED with the latest trends, sales, and celebrities influencing what we wear.
Sustainable Clothing Brands
If you do want to buy new clothes, there are brands out there that make it their priority to look after the environment, such as clothing that uses sustainable bamboo instead of harmful polyester and resource intensive, Cotton. I recommend Boody Eco Wear, if you are looking for underwear, bras, activewear or plain t-shirts, they are the place to go. I have their bra and underwear at home and oh my goodness they are extremely comfortable and soft!
Additionally, there are companies that have made use of our plastic bottle epidemic and made them into a textile used for clothing! Seriously, this world can be so inventive! Vegetaryn is a brand I recommend to buy tights that are made from recycled plastic bottles, not only do they do their best to be environmentally friendly with the production of their clothing but they support the spread of the Vegan message to tackle animal cruelty and climate change. Here is a discount code on me! EARTHCO
That’s all from me today and I hope you learnt a thing or two about what you can do to help reduce your environmental footprint, there are so many things you can do, it is quite exciting!
Thanks for being interested and I hope to hear from you in the comment section below, please feel free to say what you think about this issue or provide ideas about what else we can do to help tackle this issue.
Founder of The Earth Co.
Claudio, L 2007, ‘Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry’, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 115, no. 9, pp. 449-454, available at, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964887/
Weber, S 2015, ‘The After Life of Clothes’, Alternatives Journal, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 26-29, available at, https://search.proquest.com/openview/bc7c78907165a64f2796cae45ea0a2ef/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=35934